[An excerpt from this letter was first printed in Sparks, Familiar Letters, pp. 22-23, with no indication of the recipient; and another excerpt in the same book, p. 133n., as "to one of his family connexions in America," and also in Sparks, Works, VII, 380n., as "to his sister." The letter, except for the genealogical chart, was printed in Goodman, The Ingenious Dr. Franklin ( 1931), pp. 50-53, from the manuscript then in the possession of A. S. W. Rosenbach. The manuscript is now in the American Philosophical Society, and the letter is printed entire from it. Since Jane Mecom's letter of May 10 is missing, it does not appear what she had wrongly suspected her brother of.]
London, July 17. 1771
I have received your kind Letter of May 10. You seem so sensible of your Error in so hastily suspecting me, that I am now in my turn sorry I took Notice of it. Let us then suppose that Accompt ballanced and settled, and think no more of it.
In some former Letter I believe I mention'd the Price of the Books, which I have now forgotten: But I think it was 3s each.--To be sure there are Objections to the Doctrine of Preexistence. But it seems to have been invented with a good Intention, to save the Honour of the Deity, which was thought to be injured by the Supposition of his bringing Creatures into the World to be miserable, without any previous misbehaviour of theirs to deserve it.--This, however, is perhaps an officious Supporting of the Ark, without being call'd to such Service. When he has thought fit to draw a Veil, our Attempting to remove it may be deem'd at least an offensive Impertinence. And we shall probably succeed little better in such an Adventure to gain forbidden Knowledge, than our first Parents did when they ate the Apple.
I meant no more by saying Mankind were Devils to one another, than that being in general superior to the Malice of the other Creatures, they were not so much tormented by them as by themselves. Upon the whole I am much disposed to like the World as I find it, & to doubt my own Judgment as to what would mend it. I see so much Wisdom in what I understand